New Investigator Awards

In accord with Molly Towell’s wishes and directions, the philosophy of the Molly Towell Perinatal Research Foundation is to provide financial encouragement for young scientists to pursue training in basic biomedical mechanisms of Perinatal health and disease and to provide financial assistance to help launch the academic careers of such individuals. The Foundation’s objective is to provide one Fellowship and one New Investigator award annually, though this is contingent on the quality of the applications and Foundation resources.

Since its inception in 1988, the Foundation has provided more than $1.4 million to support these programs. In addition, The Foundation has contributed more than $200,000 to support educational conferences that are focused on dissemination of research information to clinicians and scientists.

The following is a list of New Investigators who have been recipients of MTPRF Awards. An asterisk (*) bedside the name indicates that papers acknowledging the MTPRF-supported work have been appended in the “MTPRF-supported Research” section.

Dr Simon Hirota

2014-2016
As a new Assistant Professor in the Departments of Physiology & Pharmacology and Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary, Dr Hirota will use a mouse model to investigate mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of necrotizing enterocolitis. His novel hypotheses suggest interactions between orphan nuclear receptors and the immune system that result in the intestinal pathology of this common disease in newborns. His experiments could lead to novel strategies to prevent or ameliorate the disease.

Dr Shannon Bainbridge

2013-2015
Dr Bainbridge is the first MTPRF Fellow (2007-2008) who has gone on to receive a New Investigator award. Following completion of post-doctoral Fellowships at Magee-Women’s Research Institute in Pittsburgh and the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Toronto, she was appointed as Assistant Professor in the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences and as an affiliate investigator in the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute at the University of Ottawa. She will continue her research into pathologic mechanisms in the placenta that result in fetal growth restriction.  View Dr Bainbridge’s papers: Bainbridge-2012-1, Bainbridge-2012-2

Dr Jorge Soliz*

2012-2014
Dr Soliz was appointed as Assistant Professor at Laval University in the Department of Pediatrics, Centre de Recherche de l’Hopital St-Francois d’Assise. He received a New Investigator award to study the role of erythropoietin in the regulation of breathing in newborn infants. With the additional assistance of other local awards, his laboratory already is well established with an impressive output of new information in this important area of research. View Dr Soliz’s papers: Soliz-2014-1, Soliz-2014-2, Soliz-2013-1, Soliz-2013-2, Soliz-2013-3

Dr Richard Keijzer*

2011-2013
This clinician-scientist trained first as a surgeon and then completed his Ph.D. at Erasmus University in the Netherlands. He then completed training in Pediatric Surgery at the University of Alabama, Birmingham and at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Surgery, and Pediatrics and Child Health, and Physiology at the University of Manitoba. He was awarded a New Investigator grant to study the functional role of specific micro-RNAs in the abnormal pulmonary development that occurs in babies with congenital diaphragmatic hernia.  View Dr Keijzer’s paper

Dr Pascal Lavoie*

2009-2010
As a Neonatologist and Assistant Professor in Pediatrics with the Child and Family Research Institute at the University of British Columbia, Dr Lavoie’s special interests are in the field of immunology. He was awarded a New Investigator grant to study systemic inflammation in preterm neonates at risk of lung and brain injury. He also has received a Career Investigator Award from the Michael Smith Foundation and a Child and Family Research Institute Clinician-Scientist award.  View Dr Lavoie’s paper

Dr Martin Frasch*

2010-2012
Following his M.D. and residency training in Germany and completion of his Ph.D. studies at Western University, Dr Frasch was appointed as Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Sainte-Justine Research Centre, University of Montreal. He was awarded a New Investigator award to study interactions between the fetal autonomic nervous system and inflammatory mediators in determining perinatal health following intrauterine sepsis. In 2012 he was successful in obtaining a 5-year CIHR grant to continue his research.  View Dr Frasch’s papers: Frasch-2013, Frasch-2012

Dr Justine Turner*

2009-2011
Dr Turner is a clinician-scientist in Pediatric Gastroenterology. Following post-doctoral training at the Hospital for Sick Children, she was appointed to the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta and was awarded a New Investigator grant to characterize an animal model for the study of intestinal adaptation to short bowel syndrome in piglets.  View Dr Turner’s paper

Dr Daniel Hardy*

2007-2009
Following a post-doctoral Fellowship with Dr Carol Mendelson at the University of Texas Southwestern, Dr Hardy was appointed as Assistant Professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Physiology and Pharmacology at Western University. Dr Hardy’s research is focused on the role of nuclear receptors and genetic mechanisms of fetal programming. He was promoted to Associate Professor at Western in 2013.  View Dr Hardy’s paper

Dr Sarah McDonald

2005-2007
Dr McDonald was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at McMaster University and received a New Investigator Award to establish her research program to study mechanisms underlying the development of postnatal obesity in children born with fetal growth restriction. She now is an Associate Professor in Ob/Gyn with cross-appointments in the Departments of Radiology and Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

Dr Denise Hemmings

2004-2005
A new Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alberta, Dr Hemmings received start-up funding for her project studying the role of receptors for sphingisine-1-phosphate in the vascular adaptations to pregnancy. She is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Dr Janet Brunton

1999-2000
A New Investigator award was granted to Dr Brunton of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Science at the University of Alberta to study arginine requirement in piglets. Dr Brunton is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Dr Sheila Innis

1998-1999
A new Investigator in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia, Dr Innis was awarded a start-up grant for her research program to study maternal lipid nutrition and the implications of essential fatty acid transfer to the fetus. Dr Innis is now a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Head of the Nutrition and Metabolism Research Program of the Child and Family Research Program.

Dr Michelle Mottola

1997-2000
This Assistant Professor at the University of Western Ontario was awarded funding to study the effect of chronic exercise (stair-climber program) in pregnant women. Dr Mottola remains as an Associate Professor in the Departments of Cell Biology and Anatomy and School of Kinesiology at Western University and is Director of the R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation – Exercise and Pregnancy Laboratory.

Dr Colin MacCalman

1995-1996
Start-up funding was provided to establish his new laboratory in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of British Columbia. Throughout his career at UBC, Dr MacCalman studied placentation in normal and pathologic pregnancies with support of several national funding agencies until his untimely death in 2011.

Dr John Greer*

1993-1994
A new Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology, Division of Neuroscience at the University of Alberta, this award was used to purchase specialized equipment to study the ontogeny of the neural control of breathing. Dr Greer is now a Professor in the Department of Physiology and Director of the Neuroscience Institute at the University of Alberta. He is an international authority in the field of neural regulation of the respiratory system. His studies have contributed to understanding of the central nervous system control of breathing in neonates and adults. He also has studied the role of abnormal neural development leading to congenital diaphragmatic hernia.  View Dr Greer’s paper

Dr Joan Hodgman

1990-1991
Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California received funding to study the role of deficiency of non-essential amino acid synthesis in failure to thrive.

Dr Sugantha Govindarajan

1990-1991
Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Southern California received funding to study the ability of premature infants to synthesize essential amino acids.

Dr Johann (John) Krisinger*

1990-1991
Dr Johann (John) Krisinger, a new investigator in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of British Columbia received funding to study the function and regulation of the calbindin-D9k gene in the human uterus and placenta during pregnancy. Dr Krisinger is now a Professor in Biology and Nursing at Northwest Community College in Prince Rupert, B.C.  View Dr Krisinger’s paper: Krisinger-1992, Krisinger-1993, Krisinger-1994, Krisinger-1995